Hickory trees are a common sight in New York, with 5 native species found in the state.
These trees are known for their hard, dense wood and edible nuts.
In this article, we will explore the different types of hickory trees found in New York.
- There are 5 types of hickory trees that are native to New York: shagbark hickory, pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, shellbark hickory and bitternut hickory.
- Shagbark hickory is the most common type of hickory tree found in New York.
- Pignut hickory is another common hickory tree found in New York.
- Mockernut hickory is a less common hickory tree found in New York.
- Bitternut hickory is the smallest of the hickory trees found in New York.
- While not native to New York, the big shellbark hickory can also be found in the state.
- Hickory trees are known for their hard, dense wood and edible nuts.
- The nuts of some hickory trees are not typically eaten by humans, but are an important food source for wildlife.
- The leaves of hickory trees are compound, with five to eleven leaflets.
- Hickory trees are a common sight in New York and are an important part of the state's ecosystem.
The shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is the most common type of hickory tree found in New York.
It is easily recognizable by its shaggy bark, which peels away in long strips.
The leaves of the shagbark hickory are large and compound, with five to seven leaflets.
The nuts of the shagbark hickory are sweet and edible, and are a favorite of squirrels and other wildlife.
The pignut hickory (Carya glabra) is another common hickory tree found in New York.
It is similar in appearance to the shagbark hickory, but has a smoother bark that does not peel away in strips.
The leaves of the pignut hickory are also compound, with five to seven leaflets.
The nuts of the pignut hickory are small and bitter, and are not typically eaten by humans.
The mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) is a less common hickory tree found in New York.
It has a thick, gray bark that is deeply furrowed.
The leaves of the mockernut hickory are compound, with seven to nine leaflets.
The nuts of the mockernut hickory are large and thick-shelled, with a sweet flavor that is highly prized by wildlife.
The bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) is the smallest of the hickory trees found in New York.
It has a smooth, gray bark that is not deeply furrowed.
The leaves of the bitternut hickory are compound, with seven to eleven leaflets.
The nuts of the bitternut hickory are small and bitter, and are not typically eaten by humans.
Big Shellbark Hickory
While not native to New York, the big shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa) can be found in the state.
It is a large tree with a thick, gray bark that is deeply furrowed.
The leaves of the big shellbark hickory are compound, with seven to nine leaflets.
The nuts of the big shellbark hickory are large and sweet, and are highly prized by humans and wildlife alike.
Where Hickories Grow in New York
The different hickory species are found across New York State, though shagbark and pignut are the most widespread.
Here is more detail on their distribution:
- Shagbark hickory grows statewide in moist soils. It is abundant in western New York and the Southern Tier.
- Pignut hickory has the broadest range in New York, found statewide in both upland and bottomland forests.
- Mockernut hickory favors rich, moist soils in western and central New York. It can also grow on drier sites.
- Bitternut hickory grows statewide but is rare in higher elevations. It favors floodplains.
- Shellbark hickory primarily grows in scattered populations along major rivers and moist bottomlands in western and central New York.
All the hickory species overlap in range to some degree and may co-occur in the same forest. Hickories are a signature tree of the Appalachian Plateaus and Allegheny Plateau regions.
They decline towards northern and Downstate New York.
Threats to Hickory Trees
Several pressures and diseases currently threaten North America's hickories. Here are some factors impacting hickory trees:
- Overharvesting for timber - Hickory logging outpaced regrowth during the 20th century. Sustainable forestry practices can help ensure sufficient regeneration.
- Land clearing for agriculture and development - This has reduced hickory habitat, though the trees can still be found in parks and natural areas.
- Disease - Hickory bark beetles and canker diseases have ravaged some stands. Management practices can help minimize outbreaks.
- Climate change - May stress hickories at the southern end of their range as temperatures rise.
- Competition - Hickories are slower growing than other trees like tulip poplar, maple, and cherry. This can limit hickory seedling success in mixed forests.
- Hybridization - Shagbark and shellbark hickories hybridize where their ranges overlap, which may dilute the gene pool.
Despite these challenges, the future of New York's hickories can be secured through sustainable forestry, habitat conservation, hickory research, and proactive management of diseases and pests.
The unique beauty and usefulness of these trees makes them a natural heritage worth protecting.
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